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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ban the Fat

Every age has its fetish. The Victorians obsessed over sex and alcohol. The current age is fixated on race and health. The statist tendencies, the perhaps primordial desire to control the actions of others, are nearly universal in cultures across the globe. It varies by degree. It's a kind of original sin. Something is wrong, so there ought to be a law. It took man some centuries to reach the principle that another's rights extend no further then one's own nose. It is a principle far from universally understood. The puritan soon becomes the inquisitor, and the imprudent act becomes the sinful and then plain illegal. It's futility is beside the point. It's cathartic. The pot smoker, the prostitute, the alcohol drinker are punished and this provides the inquisitors - and their supporters - a reassuring emotion. That comforting feeling that evil is being stamped out in the world. Whether that evil offers anything more than psychic harm to the puritan or the inquisitor. This all came to mind when reading the below. That it failed won't prevent it from being tried elsewhere. Trying to control the life of the poor isn't about helping the poor, it's about satisfying the vanity of the busy-bodies. From Slate.

When it comes to regulating or taxing foods in the interest of public health, there is a line. The line might not be where libertarian types say it is (basically, everywhere), but there is a line. Banning trans fats from restaurants or soda pop from schools might not cross it. Nor might imposing a tax on sugary drinks or forcing restaurants to disclose nutrition information on their menus.

But a year-old ban on new fast-food restaurants in a poor district of Los Angeles crosses that mark. Worse, a new study by the Rand Corp. concludes that the block is unlikely to do any good. If so, the situation is this: The government is imposing a restriction only on certain poor people, to the good of nobody, while enabling people with higher incomes to eat at whatever kind of restaurant they choose.

The City Council imposed the ban last year in South Los Angeles in the interest of curbing obesity. The law will be in place until at least March.

Posted by Richard Anderson on October 14, 2009 | Permalink


"The Victorians obsessed over sex and alcohol"

...and we're not?

Posted by: tomax7 | 2009-10-14 12:13:30 PM

We don't regulate it like they did. Their paranoia on those two issues is comparable to ours on race and drugs.

Posted by: Publius | 2009-10-14 1:04:32 PM

...ah you mean the chastity belt thing.

What about Prohibition or no smoking ads on TV or hard liquor ads?

Meaning, nothing new under the sun per se.

If it weren't for Ralph Nader who knows where we'd be with transfat and seat belts...

Posted by: tomax7 | 2009-10-14 2:02:14 PM

I must agree with tomax7 in that there really is no difference. Prohibition is prohibition. Now the latest fad is fat having succeeded with smoking, seat-belts, helmets and so many others, so one can only guess what the next fad to ban will be. Meat perhaps?

Another point is that one need not go back to Victorian times, since we have ample examples to-day. All this makes us the same as the Islamic supremacists. The only difference is the choice of what to ban.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-10-14 2:56:55 PM

There is a difference between products like tobacco, caffeine, and fatty foods, which harm only the user, and those with the potential to harm people other than the user, such as alcohol and other drugs. The government has no business interfering with the former. The government should interfere with the latter only to the extent necessary to mediate the risk posed to others.

Similarly, if a school district chooses to sell only healthy foods in its cafeterias and hallways, that is their prerogative (especially since in many cases they are not obliged to sell food at all). However, they have no business preventing students from bringing such foods in for themselves. And we'll do without the Peanut Police, please; kids with allergies should start the year with at least three Epi pens—two for themselves and one for the teacher.

The ordinance in Los Angeles is probably not unconstitutional. But it is stupid, and probably runs afoul of anti-discrimination legislation.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-10-14 6:40:27 PM

Shane, alcohol does not commit crimes, people do. So justifying government interference for alcohol is the no different from those who seek to ban all guns. If someone commits a crime due to whatever reason, the person should be charged with the appropriate offence and prosecuted. Will we ever learn that we cannot protect people from themselves? It does not look like it.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-10-14 7:19:19 PM

Alain, you miss my point. Restricting the circumstances under which guns and alcohol can be used is meant to minimize the risk of others, not ban the goods in question (although gun control nuts like Wendy Cukier would go much farther if they could).

The problem with your approach is that it is reactive; it deals only with the tragedy after it has happened. It is much cheaper and much more effective to prevent the tragedy in the first place. Granted, it's a delicate balancing act. But I do not consider my freedoms to have been mortally impaired by the requirement that alcohol not be opened inside the vehicle.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-10-14 8:12:22 PM

Modern Government Says: Let Them Eat Cake.

Posted by: philanthropist | 2009-10-14 8:44:55 PM

Yes, Shane we see it differently. Your argument for a preventive approach is the same one as those who push for hate laws and restricting free speech. I am not saying you agree with them, but you both share the same approach in that you assume that if X is present this will automatically cause Y to happen. As for my approach being reactive in that it only deals with something after it has happened, it remains the most just way. No man-made system will ever eliminate all risks of tragedy, for life itself is always full of risks.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-10-15 3:38:16 PM

"so one can only guess what the next fad to ban will be. Meat perhaps?"

I believe the next ban will be salt. Health Canada already has a paid panel of 7 "experts" on how to implement the new laws. And the nanny state marches on.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-10-17 12:40:09 AM

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